No, I haven’t seen a caribou yet (though I have eaten one : tenderloin, quite tasty), but I have seen the following – elk (several), mountain goat (single male sitting on a ledge), big horn sheep (a group of females with their young) and one black bear heading into the forest. No photographs, alas. For the most part the wildlife was too fleeting or far away or my camera was buried in my pack or something. Well, I did get a few shots of the mountain goat on my not-long-enough lens, so perhaps with some Photoshopping… But so what? If anyone wants to see what these animals look like (and almost everybody knows anyway) they can do a five-second Google search. I assume they can find photographs better than mine of the Columbia Icefield – where we went glacier walking yesterday – easily as well.
So why do we take these pictures? There are many reasons that many (Sontag notably) have written about and I’m not going to bore you with them here or with the photos (yet). But part of it is the instinct to document that we have been far away – or at least pretended to be. Because nothing is very far nowadays – and not just because of the internet. Just last night, here in the lobby of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge where I am staying was a huge party of what seemed to be several hundred members of the local Oilmen’s Association, playing pari-mutual games and dining on a lavish spread. Alberta, besides being spectacularly beautiful and bountiful, is rich, rich in oil or, rather, oil-rich sand . A battle is going on here between enviros trying to preserve the glaciers and the scenery and business-folk trying to fill up our gas pumps and their pocket books. Last night, they, not the enviros, were running the show at the Lodge here, itself a naturaly gorgeous lakeside spot and, sad to say, now owned by the Saudis who have bought the luxe Fairmont chain. We live in a strange world indeed and it is a great challenge for us to balance competing needs. For now, however, I am increasingly happy to be here – a “little bit” far away. Maybe I’ll even see a caribou before I return home Friday night. And if not, I’ll still have some in my stomach.